Since the #bgg2wlarmy keeps the questions rolling in – and since I really miss doing written answers to Q&A Wednesday – I figured I’d take a quick opportunity to answer a few of your questions, so that y’all don’t start thinking I’ve quit talking to y’all directly or something.
Besides, I love getting questions! I answer a lot of them right back in e-mail, but I wind up adding dog ears to most of them so that I can remember to write about those particular topics. Like, for instance…
1) When Keysha said the following,
“I am struggling so hard with my weight and it seems almost impossible. I’m 350lbs and only 30yrs old. I’ve joined a gym, but seem to figure what type of diet is right. So i simply cut out junk food and stopped drinkin calories. But it’s been six weeks and i see very little difference”
I realized that I needed to reinforce an important point: the heavier you are, the harder it will be to “see” results. Partly because “results” could be happening in so many different places all at the same time, that it dilutes the visual effect; but also because in the beginning, you don’t look for the kind of results you can actually get.
When I think of what kind of “results” I’m looking for in my training now, I’m looking for cuts in my shoulders, dips in my hip, cuts above my knee, and a particular kind of lift in my booty. What was I looking for in the very beginning? For my love handles to go away, for my tummy to flatten, and for my arms to not jiggle anymore.
In other words, you may never notice that you’re actually losing inches all the way around because you’re so focused on something that may take a while. Being hyperfocused on the giant things can make you overlook the small achievements that, in the end, mean so much more.
This is why I encourage people to spend a good amount of time investing in goal measurement tools that go beyond the scale. This way, you are encouraged by the various other methods of measuring your progress that are outside of the scale as well as outside of what you can see.
2) When Lequana asked me,
“I guess I’m asking, from a girl who wishes she could be in your shoes, how do you do it when everything but your brain is telling you to stop?”
I realized that I needed to reinforce the reality that is: when it comes to your body, the only voice in the room you should be listening to is your own. It’s that simple. What do you want? What do you need? What will make you happiest?
No matter what your friends, your family, and your lovers are telling you, at the end of the day, it’s what makes you happiest, most fulfilled, most satisfied, most encouraged, and the healthiest you can be. That’s what determines whether or not your goals are worth the effort necessary to see them through. Not whether or not your boothang believes you’re “fine the way you are,” not whether your heavy-set family thinks “you’ve gotten too skinny,” and certainly not whether or not your friends think “you could stand to lose 20 or so pounds.”
You are the only authority on your body, and if you think you’re not quite that informed, then do the hard work of finding out what you need to know to achieve your goals in a healthy, less-restrictive, more empowering fashion. But no one else should be the final say in what’s best for you. Only you.
3) When a loving tweeter asked me,
“I have a question. Does BMI matter? Mine says that im overweight. But I workout regularly, my blood pressure is healthy.”
I’m reminded that I need to clarify what the BMI, in my mind, should dictate.
I don’t think that the BMI is an adequate marker of health. “Being healthy” includes too many factors, many of which the BMI cannot adequately determine.
What’s your body fat percentage? How much lean body mass are you working with?
What does your blood work look like? Hormones? Blood sugar? Blood pressure? Nutrition?
How do you feel? Are you experiencing joint pain? Do you have proper posture?
Do you feel physically fit? (Notice, I didn’t say “are you fit?”) Do you feel like you’re able to survive the zombie apocalypse? Or nah?
Remember, we might be setting out on weight loss goals, but we need to ensure that our steps to achieve those goals are always done with our full health in mind. And, quite frankly, nothing tends to that better than eating better and being more active, two things you should strive to do on a regular basis, anyway.
4) When Alia asks me,
“I feel like the fitness industry is not really trying to help the average person either, not just the diet industry. I have been attentive to how little information they really let out but have been wise enough to see that the 15-30 min workouts is not what other professionals do themselves they usually tell on themselves some where on their blog ie: their running they did in the morning , biking or training other clients. These people are already fit and the advice they dispense is really not enough or equivalent to what they actually do to maintain their own physique. So I am tired of buying and following incomplete programs only to run after another one. What i’d like someone to tell me is the real deal. How much real workout needs to be done for weight loss?”
I’m reminded of my need to better quantify what a “successful workout” should really look like. (I’m also reminded of why I felt like it was so important to go get certified.)
The reality is, most people aren’t able to relate to the person who needs to lose more than 50 or so pounds, and even fewer people are going to understand why it’s such a significant challenge for others, regardless of whether or not they’ve been there.
The truth is… for weight loss? I don’t like to see more than 45-60 minutes of cardio, and a good HIIT workout should have you out of commission in under an hour. Anything longer than that, and you’re potentially hustling backwards.
I’ve talked extensively about the benefits of muscle development for the person who has large amounts of weight to lose, but too much cardio can put that muscle development in jeopardy, and for the average person – and that’s average person in physical fitness, not necessarily in weight alone – that number is around an hour.
Not only that, but for an otherwise healthy person who is 80lbs overweight, you can accomplish far more with adjusting your daily food intake than you ever could with exercise.
You can’t compare your needs, as an 80lb-overweight person, to those of someone who’s a fitness professional, because their needs are different. Their goals are different. Oftentimes, they may run long miles because they’re also an endurance runner, something that proves difficult for the exercise novice. Many fitness professionals “hide” behind endurance training as a means of weight loss maintenance. When they do, simply pay closer attention to the advice you get from them. It may not apply to you in the best way possible.
Maybe it’s time for “A Black Girl’s Guide to Training Like a Bawse?”
5) When Kathleen asked,
“I do pilates, hiking or spinning for cardio, and strength training 2 times a week. I have started doing barre classes and really enjoy them. How many times a week do you need to do each type of workout to have it be worthwhile?”
I’m reminded that I need to talk more about cross-training, and how to do so successfully. There are lots of ways to configure this, and I’m thinking specifically from the standpoint of someone who desires to lose weight when I say the following:
While I love to see someone who keeps so many activities cycling that they never get bored, what I love even more is for people to find what they love, and stick to it in a way that allows them to train hard and strive to get better in their chosen activity. You love barre? Then get your squeeze and lift and elongation on. You love to spin? Then get your [insert unnameable techno music snake hand dance move] on one good time on your bike. Do what you love the most, and go all in. Have a main activity that you do three to four times a week, and then have something else that you can do to fill in on the other days. Your secondary activity should be something preferably low-impact, and moderate- to low-intensity, so as not to affect your ability to perform in your primary activity.
And, as always, you should factor rest days in there somewhere, and that depends wholly on what kind of activities you’re taking part in, and what kind of post-workout discomfort you’re experiencing. Train hard, but train smart, and take care of yourself. If you hike once every couple of weeks, on top of an otherwise solid schedule, you might be sore, but you’re living your life. It’s an experience, not a training routine. But, if you’re trying to fit pilates and spinning and strength training and hiking and running and crossfit and tango lessons all in the same schedule, you become a novice at everything and a master of nothing, soon to burn out.
You’ve got all the time in the world to explore, so set aside some of that for the future. Focus on what you enjoy the most right now.
In short – I love saying “in short” after writing over a thousand words – never stop asking me questions. If I don’t get to reply to your e-mail, I’ll certainly get to it on the blog. Even I can stand to use a reminder or two of what I need to write about!
Got a question for me? Ask it!
I love this!
What type of excercise is swimming? I am doing elementary backstroke and front crawl 3x times a week.
My goal is to lose body fat and build body strength.
It’s a combination of strength and cardio, IMO. Full body sport.
I <3 you!!
One of the things I think I'm beginning to understand is that I'll see a plateau on the scale, while noticing other physical changes (like inches lost, smaller clothing sizes, and changes in strength), and some of this can be attributed to fat loss that is offset by muscle gain. For some time, the numbers don't change, and then WHOOSH!, there will be a loss on the scale.
Your responses above are right on target, and that's from someone who has lost 170 lbs, and still has 60-65 lbs remaining to be in a healthy weight range according to BMI (and because of frame size).
The one thing that is keeping me challenged is what to do with the loose skin from all of this. It's something I'd like to resolve without surgery, but it's not something that seems to be responding as quickly and easily as I'd hoped.
Again, you're amazing, and thank you for always answering our questions!!
Congratulations on your success!
I recently gave birth to my 4th child, am carrying around about 7lbs from each kid. So I need to lose about 30lbs. I do 30min on the treadmill and 15min on the eliptical 4 times a week and weights 3 times a week. The dilemma I have is breastfeeding. When I follow the above schedule my milk supply suffers. I read that I need to take in 1800 calories a day for an adequate supply of milk. How can I balance the two out. Weight loss and breastfeeding.
See, this is another blog post entirely, but I’d advise you to remember that the average breastfeeding schedule can burn almost 600 calories by itself. It sounds like you might be doing a tad bit too much cardio for your intake, keeping the breastfeeding in mind.
Without knowing your specifics, I’d go a bit easy on the cardio, and let breastfeeding and proper nutrition take its course for a few weeks to a month or so. After that, slowly add in 10 minutes of exercise (HIGH intervals), and increase it by 5 minutes every month until you hit your target, and your body has warmed itself up to being able to handle it all. By the time you’re ready to wean your child off the breast, you should have made positive progress. 🙂
Regarding the first question: this spring I started at 260 and am now 235. I’d lost 10 inches in the waist, but what people notice is the slimmer jowls. I guess I’m seconding the observation that as a bigger woman you need to lose quite a bit before people notice. That’s okay; it’s not about them anyway.
Hey Erika !1 Love your blog 🙂 Over the last couple of years I have lost over a hundred pounds. With increasing activity I discovered I have “bad” knees. I have had my meniscus repaired and some arthritis removed from my knee cap. I was told by my orthopedic surgeon that I need to lose more weight in order to relieve some of the pressure on my knees. How can I lose weight AND gain muscle
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